How He Learned to Fly

elliptical fly

Ask yourself this simple question, “What does it mean to fly”? Do we need to grow wings and magically lift off the ground? Can I buy an energy drink for that?

Perhaps, learning to fly means realizing our freedom. Our freedom to choose. Having a choice isn’t always about making an easy decision. Sometimes the greatest reward comes from making the hardest choice. When all arrows point down and we yet we decide to choose ‘up’!

Our Ambassador of the Month, Russell Lash chose up. And then, he decided to fly.

What challenges your mobility and how do you overcome this challenge?

Russell – I have multiple spine injuries as well as Charcot Marie Tooth disease (Neurological)

What does “Defy Convention” mean to you?

Russell – I didn’t understand what it meant to “defy convention” till I was 21 years old and I learned to fly for the first time. I was that overweight, out-of-shape, giant-ogre sized kid that most people (including myself) had pretty much given up on trying to get in better physical shape.

Between having strange problems with my legs as an infant that required braces on my legs and my severe childhood asthma, no one ever expected much out of me physically. All I ever heard from people was, “Oh, he can’t do that…” when it came to me doing some sort of exercise or participating in sports.

Then, one day I decided I had had enough of living like that. I headed to my closest gym to give it a shot and prove everyone wrong (including myself). After a few weeks of initial exercises there, one morning I strapped on my running shoes and climbed onto an elliptical machine for the first run in my life. I took it easy the first few months as my feet and legs learned for the first time since sprouting that they could actually leave the ground at a quickened pace. Then gradually I found that I had to set the resistance higher and higher; and I was running for longer and longer every time I climbed aboard.   I’m not even sure when I stopped holding on to the arm controls of the machine; but all of a sudden when I went to go for runs, I could actually feel both of my feet come off of the ground as I began to fly.

I never felt happier in my life as those endorphins rushed across my body. I no longer heard the voices in my head telling me that, “I couldn’t do it.” Instead I heard cheers and roars of encouragement telling me to, “just keep going!”

I knew that if I could learn to fly and get myself healthy, that anything was possible. And to me, that is defying convention.

Do you have a passion in life and if so, can you describe a little about it?

Russell – I have two main passions in my life: my family and my ability to be a storyteller with film. My family gives me a reason to get up every morning and to get out of the bed, no matter how much I hurt that day. I know that my family depends on me (whether they would admit it or not). Whether that’s preparing a meal, or just spending some time talking or cuddling with them. I get more joy just spending time with them then I do anything else.

My other passion is making films. Ever since I started going to the movies and watching television, I knew that somehow I wanted to help create the kind stories that people to enjoy. Also, through those stories, help people understand their of society better. A passion that was unfortunately (and hopefully just temporarily) taken away from me when my injuries and my illness became too severe to carry the film equipment.

Learning to Fly

What’s your favorite thing about your SideStix?

Russell – My SideStix are starting to remind me that my aerial days are not over just yet; that all my legs need right now is the “right” help to get moving again. Now that I use my Stix I am walking more and more every day and I am slowly starting to remember how to fly (ok, maybe glide this time).

What is your idea of a perfect day?

Russell – My perfect day is so simple. I wake up with my spouse and dogs on a warm summer day and before the rest of the world starts to wake up, we throw on our sneakers and go for a hike; checking out the campground we live at in the summer, and all it has to offer that day. We return to our cabin and prepare breakfast together, while planning the rest of our day. By noon, we hit the pool or the lake and join our fellow campers for a few hours of some sun and swim time. When it gets to hot out, we head back to the cabin; each grabbing a book and one of the dogs to cuddle up for some co-reading time.

Later on, we return to the kitchen to prepare a feast for some friends coming by for a dinner/picnic-bbq with us. After we eat, everyone heads out for an evening sunset hike around the campground together, while we share our experiences of the day. When we return, we either put on a good comedy movie or we simply just talk the night away.

Sometimes, I’ll go for one last before-bed walk (because I can now with my SideStix). Tomorrow will start another perfect day.

Learning to Fly

What are your top 5 favorite ways to stay motivated?

Russell –

  • John: Spouse
  • Arthur: Dog
  • Edward: Dog
  • Adrian: Grandson
  • Valerie and Patrick: Step-kids

I know it sounds like a silly answer, but it’s true. It’s my family that motivates me.
That, plus I hate to hear no or be told I can’t do something.

Do you have a message for other crutch users?

Russell – WALK! Every day! Several times a day! Every chance you get!

When we stop walking we forget how good it feels to actually walk. That it goes beyond just a physical activity. Walking gives your body and mind the freedom to know that your not stuck in one place.

If you can go from Point A. to Point B. with your body and your mind, well then you can go anywhere.

Charcot Marie Tooth disease


Russell Lash
Age 39
Philadelphia Metro Area and the Poconos’s, PA


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